This Rhine River Cruise Took My Breath Away. But Not in the Way I Expected.

AmaWaterways’ European river cruise is not what you might think. See if you can keep up.

A sightseeing boat on the Rhine River in Amsterdam.

The Rhine River is one of the most popular destinations for cruising in Europe.

Photo by Mae Hamilton

I’m out of breath and panting, somewhere near Heidelberg, a historic German city located near the foothills of the Odenwald. My cycling group and I are pedaling toward Schwetzingen Palace, renowned for its Versailles-like gardens, about six miles away from our ship docked along the Rhine. As I pause in the middle of a cornfield, all my group mates are but a glimmer of silver hair in the distance.

“Don’t worry,” the wellness instructor says sympathetically. He had stayed behind with me so I wouldn’t get lost. “Some of these older people have been cyclists for years.”

“They’re in such better shape than I am!” I say. He gives me a look. “Well, yes.”

A busy town square in Cologne, Germany

Amawaterways’ Captivating Rhine itinerary takes cruisers through several exciting destinations including Cologne, Germany, which is known for its UNESCO-protected cathedral.

Photo by Mae Hamilton

It’s day five of AmaWaterways’ seven-night “Captivating Rhine” cruise. I’m sailing from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland, on the 156- passenger AmaLucia, which was christened in 2022. One of the newest ships in the company’s fleet, it offers two dining options (a main restaurant and the dinner-only Chef’s Table, which seats 32 guests), a spa, a walking track, and complimentary beer and wine.

But what distinguishes AmaWaterways from the seemingly endless array of Rhine River cruises is its wellness program and active excursions. It’s no secret that river-cruise passengers tend to be older, but this company is a go-to for those who like to start the day with vigorous bike rides and cap it off with a vineyard-side wine tasting. To that end, each ship has an onboard wellness instructor who organizes daily activities, including yoga, cardio workouts, and dance classes. Passengers can borrow bikes at no charge for use on land. AmaWaterways also offers shore excursions, ranging from a gentle cable car ride over vineyards to a Black Forest hike.

Toward the end of my trip, I sat on a stoop enjoying a mango gelato after a long walking tour of Riquewihr, a fairy-tale medieval French town. I had sweated my way down the Rhine for the past week, but it was exactly the kind of vacation I needed. For someone like me, whose mind is constantly racing with worries, staying active allowed me to be more present and connected—even when I was being shown up by people twice my age. Those moments in a new destination, when the responsibilities dissipate, make travel—and the sweat—so rewarding.

Mae Hamilton is an associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.
More From AFAR
From Our Partners